2 Peter 3:1-7 ~ 20100221 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
02/21 2 Peter 3:1-7 Reminding the Beloved
1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, ...
Peter has taught us about the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The false teachers had denied the power and authority of Jesus, and in chapter 2, Peter has addressed their total disregard for God's authority and power. Now in chapter 3 he moves to their disbelief in the future coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3:1 This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,
3 knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. 4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
Peter says this is the second letter he is writing. He writes because he cares. Peter refers to his readers as 'beloved'; 'agapetoi' - those who are loved with a selfless, self-sacrificial love. Peter wants the best for his readers and is doing everything in his power to do them good and bless them. He uses this affectionate term 'agapetoi' four times in this chapter. He started the letter by addressing us as brothers, and now he calls us beloved... beloved... beloved... beloved. We tend to read 2 Peter, especially chapter 2 and think 'this doesn't sound very loving' - he is talking about hell fire an brimstone and turning people to ashes, about chains of gloomy darkness and God's preservation of evildoers for the final judgment, about drowning ungodly people in a global flood, he calls people blots and blemishes, he says they are nearsighted and blind, he compares them with ignorant beasts that are born to be caught and destroyed, he says even a donkey knew better than them. He uses the graphic picture of a dog lapping up its own vomit and a sow wallowing in her own filth, he says they have hearts trained in greed and they are insatiable for sin, that they are accursed children, and it would have been better for them if they had never heard the good news at all than to have heard it and end up where they will end up. To our modern ears trained in politically correct niceness, this may not sound very 'loving'. We are not allowed to hold anyone to any sort of objective standard or to impose our personal beliefs on anyone else. You just don't talk like this in polite society. Well, first of all, our society is anything but polite. Maybe at an extremely superficial level there is a facade of politeness, but our culture is depraved and self-destructive and headed straight for hell. But you can't say that out loud. "You're going to hell!"
Imagine yourself on a road trip for a family vacation. You're planning to cross over the Glen Canyon Dam into Arizona. You and the family are doing some sightseeing, so you're driving slower than you normally would, and as you round the bend to approach the bridge, you slam on your brakes and screech to a halt just inches from the jagged edge of the pavement. The dam has erupted and the bridge has collapsed into the torrent of water hundreds of feet below. And let's just add for effect that a gas pipeline was severed and is dumping thousands of gallons of fuel into the flaming inferno of wreckage and destruction below. 'Well kids, that's enough sightseeing for today, lets turn around and go home.' But as you drive away, you see another minivan approaching, obviously not sightseeing, probably late for a wedding or something, going much too fast, just about to round the final bend before what used to be the bridge. What do you do? Be polite. Stay in your lane. Smile and wave. Don't they look nice? Their whole family is dressed up for the occasion. That would be negligent, sick and cruel. You do whatever you can to get their attention. Yell, scream, throw things. Use your car and drive them off the road. They may be upset with you or think your a bit eccentric. But if they are able to stop in time, they will thank you.
I'm not advocating that at work tomorrow you get in everyone's face and start screaming "you're all going to hell". Peter is lovingly but forcefully and graphically warning us, telling us that this is where false teachers will end up, this is where immorality leads, and if you go that way, you will end up there too. So yes, Peter's language is a bit harsh and abrasive, but it is out of love and concern and urgency to warn those who are in immanent danger. And he expresses that love now; 'agapetoi'. Beloved, there is danger up ahead.
Peter tells us his purpose in writing: I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder. Peter is assuming that our minds are still sincere, authentic, uncorrupted, pure. And the best defense is a good offense. The best defense against false teaching and immoral living is a mind stirred up to remember the truth. In 1 Peter, he stirred us up to godly living in spite of the threat of persecution. In the first chapters of 2 Peter, he stirred us up to godly living in spite of the arrogant and immoral false teachers. Now in chapter 3, he is stirring us up to godly living in spite of the scoffers that mock the truth of God's word.
Peter is not stirring us up with something new. He is stirring us up with something old. We often feel that we need the latest newest most cutting edge idea or teaching or truth to be able to really succeed in the Christian life. We need to attend the latest seminar or get the latest book or DVD or catch the latest trend so that we can have a good marriage and a healthy family and a growing church and successful evangelism. As a bible teacher, there's a temptation to try to find some new insight or truth that has never been discovered before to keep people's interest or attention. Good bible teaching is faithfully proclaiming the old truths, sometimes in new ways that engage the hearers, but always in dependence on God so that lives are transformed. Peter says 'I don't have anything new for you. I'm simply going to stir you up to purity by reminding you of what you already know. And the content comes directly from the bible. Peter points back to the Old Testament and ahead to the New when he says 'that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles'. Remember the predictions of the holy prophets, prophets like Amos and Malachi and Zephaniah and Jeremiah who said things like:
Amos 9:10 All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, who say, ‘Disaster shall not overtake or meet us.’
Malachi 2:17 You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, “How have we wearied him?” By saying, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them.” Or by asking, “Where is the God of justice?”
Malachi 3:18 Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him. 4:1 “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.
Zephaniah 1:12 At that time I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The LORD will not do good, nor will he do ill.’
Isaiah 5:18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood, who draw sin as with cart ropes, 19 who say: “Let him be quick, let him speed his work that we may see it; let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near, and let it come, that we may know it!” 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!
Jeremiah 5:11 For the house of Israel and the house of Judah have been utterly treacherous to me, declares the LORD. 12 They have spoken falsely of the LORD and have said, ‘He will do nothing; no disaster will come upon us, nor shall we see sword or famine. 13 The prophets will become wind; the word is not in them. Thus shall it be done to them!”’ 14 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts: “Because you have spoken this word, behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall consume them.
And we are to remember the commandment of our Lord and Savior through your apostles, the commandment that comes to us from Jesus through the apostolic testimony, things like:
Acts 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”
Matthew 24:4 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. 5 For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. ...11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
Matthew 24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Mark 13:33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. ... 35 Therefore stay awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or in the morning-- 36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”
2 Thessalonians 1:7 ...when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.
The way Peter frames this makes it clear that we are not given guidelines or helpful hints on how to live life. This is commandment from our Lord and Savior. Jesus commands us and we must respond. Jesus authorized his apostles to speak on his behalf and with his authority. And they said 'Repent and believe the gospel; endure to the end; stay awake!'
Remember, he says, knowing this of first importance. This is the same phrase Peter used in 1:20 to encourage us to pay attention to the prophetic word and the apostolic testimony because we know that the prophecies of Scripture are produced by the will of God as men directed by the Holy Spirit speak God's words. The source of our knowing is again stated to be the prophetic word written by the holy prophets, and the apostolic testimony, which we now have collected in the New Testament documents. And the content of our knowing is the coming of scoffers who follow their own sinful desires. Peter does not want anyone to be surprised when someone questions the truth of God's word or mocks salvation through Jesus Christ crucified and excuses their own sin. It should come as no surprise to us how the devil works. In 1 Peter it was persecution. The devil is a bully on the playground that wants us to think he can push us around and get us to do what he says through pain or fear. In the first chapters of 2 Peter, it is the false teaching of license. The devil will entice us to gratify our desires by saying that there will be no consequences and we will not be held accountable for our actions. If he can't get us by bullying us, or seducing and deceiving us, he attempts to stir up our pride by insulting us.
He mocks and ridicules and scoffs. Rather than surprise us or discourage us, this should encourage us. If it was promised that in the last days scoffers will come scoffing, and now we see scoffers scoffing and following their own sinful desires, then we can be encouraged that we are very near the end. Note well, that their scoffing is not mere innocent joking around. Their agenda is moral (or immoral). If by mocking they can make the threat of future judgment look ridiculous and unlikely, they can more easily seduce others to join them in their pursuit of fleshly gratification. Peter gives us a summary of the kinds of things they were saying:
4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
Using this kind of a question is more contemptuous than simply stating that Jesus is not coming back. And the language they use is the language of a believer, not an outsider. Who the 'his' is is understood. His coming is Jesus' coming. And they don't say that the fathers died; they use the distinctively Christian expression 'they fell asleep'. These mockers are mocking from the inside. They are posing as Christians, and that is what makes them particularly dangerous. They are questioning the promise of Jesus' return. They imply that there is no reason to believe he is going to come back at all. Peter began by encouraging us that God has given us precious and very great promises (1:4), promises that motivate his followers to live according to his standards. These skeptics are calling God a liar.
They get this skepticism from the consistency of the natural world. The sun comes up every day. For as long as anyone can remember the sun has always come up. There is no reason for us to think that the sun will not come up tomorrow. There is regularity, consistency. The fact that our world is orderly and follows natural laws makes scientific investigation possible. Things in nature are predictable. If you throw a rock up in the air, it will come back down. There's even a chance it will land on your head. If sometimes gravity worked and sometimes it didn't we could make no sense of this world. The scoffers say
4 They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
'The fathers' is a typical way to refer to the patriarchs or Old Testament saints. God made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They all died not having received the promises. Hebrews 11 deals with that very issue. From the beginning of creation until now nothing has changed. God is not just. There is no punishment for the wicked, and there is no reward for the godly. Live for your pleasures because this idea of God's future judgment is just a myth. God does not intervene in the world.
They at least give lip service to creation, but they ignore that the order we see in creation is a direct result of the Creator. Peter says:
5 For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, 6 and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. 7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
Peter is stirring up our sincere minds by way of reminder. These false teachers deliberately overlook the facts. This is not excusable ignorance; this is willful ignorance. Facts that are not convenient to their purposes are intentionally ignored. Genesis describes the creation of God out of the watery chaos. On day two of creation, God separated the waters above the sky from the waters below the sky. On day three, God gathered the waters below the sky into seas and made dry land. Throughout the Genesis account we read “And God said... And it was so.” God formed the earth out of water and through water by his word.
Psalms 33:6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. 7 He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses.
And God held the waters in their places until the time of the flood.
Proverbs 8:28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
And when he commanded the waters to flood the earth, it was so. It says in
Genesis 7:11 ...on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. ...23 He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens.
The Psalms again give us insight on the end of the flood.
Psalm 104:5 He set the earth on its foundations, so that it should never be moved. 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 At your rebuke they fled; at the sound of your thunder they took to flight. 8 The mountains rose, the valleys sank down to the place that you appointed for them. 9 You set a boundary that they may not pass, so that they might not again cover the earth.
It was God's word that held the waters back, and it was God's word that released them to flood the earth. The conclusion we should draw is that God will follow through on his promises of judgment. God's word stored up the waters of judgment for the ancient world. Now by God's word, the heavens and earth are being stored up for fire. God did destroy the earth once with water because of the sins of mankind. God promised that 'never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth' (Gen.9:11). God promises justice, but the final time will be with fire.
7 But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
If you are not right with God, you will be kindling for that fire. God, through his own Son Jesus Christ, has made a way for us to be forgiven, rescued, and reconciled to God. I plead with you, on the basis of the Cross of Christ, be reconciled to God! If you reject the forgiveness he freely offers, there is nothing left for you but the righteous wrath of God forever and ever and ever.